Sunday, January 4, 2009

Palm CES Predictions

With Palm's Consumer Electronics Show (CES) invitation-only press event less than a week away, I figured it was time to make some predictions about what the Centro maker might unveil.

Palm OS "Nova"

I fully expect Palm CEO Ed Colligan to unveil their next generation mobile operating system, codename "Nova." Company officials have stated that the next generation products will be "game changing" and now it is time to see if the proof is in the pudding. The road from Palm OS 5 to what we've called "Palm OS II" for so many years is finally coming to an end.

Nova will have, thanks to its Linux origins, the modern foundation upon which new applications can be built. Nova will have the ability to run multiple applications at once, address more memory than previous Palm OS devices, and will be able to support and use multiple radio technologies including: Bluetooth and A2DP, Wi-Fi 802.11b/g/n, GPS, and the HSDPA and EVDO cellular radio standards. The real question is whether or not Nova will include support for the fledgling WiMAX network being rolled out by Sprint and Clearwire. I also expect that Nova will be able to support more screen resolutions than the standard Palm OS 160x160 and 320x320 formats. Additionally, I expect that Nova will also be able to run legacy Palm OS 3/4/5 applications in their own memory space to preserve customer's software investments.

The technical specifications for Nova, by themselves, won't be able to carry Palm back to a mobile computing leadership position. For Palm to be successful, Nova has to mesh with the next generation of hardware that Palm will be releasing in 2009. I don't believe that Palm will introduce any new smartphones this week. Rather, I expect Palm will focus almost exclusively on the software. We'll learn about Nova's new user interface, it's multitasking capabilities, and the core applications that will ship pre-installed on new devices. I expect Palm to show off their revamped PIM applications, web browser and email client. An intuitive interface with Palm's easy to use applications will help drive adoption of their new platform.

I also expect that Palm will release a preview software development kit (SDK) and software simulator to professional and hobbyist developers so they can begin to develop new software for Nova and update existing software so that it can run natively under Nova.

Information Synchronization

Keeping with the software theme, I expect Palm to announce the replacements for Palm Desktop and the HotSync Manager. As I have stated in past 1SRC editorials and podcasts, I believe that USB drivers for data synchronization will be replaced by an Internet cloud solution. Your data will live on your computer and your Palm device and the data will be synchronized through the Internet. The seamless integration between desktop, mobile device, and Palm's data center should reduce the complaints about not having 64-bit Windows Vista drivers, Transport monitor errors on the Mac, and other common problems that people have when trying to synchronize their phones.

Launch Partners

Lastly, I expect that Palm will have some of their Nova device launch partners on hand to talk about what third-party software will be ready to go live when Nova devices start shipping.

At the end of the day, it will be of utmost importance that Palm not only deliver on the promise of People, Design, and Platform, but to deliver on an entire Palm ecosystem. Software a lone is not enough to lift Palm out of their current rut. Palm needs to demonstrate that they have innovative software that differentiates them from everyone else. Palm also needs to have sleek and functional hardware choices that appeal to consumers and "prosumers" as well as corporate customers. And, finally, Palm needs to ensure that they have a strong developer community to help write applications for Nova. This includes a robust development environment, useful documentation, and a certification and support network to help ensure that applications run smoothly on the new operating system.

There will be a lot of people hanging on every word that is said at Palm's CES press event this year. The media, investment analysts, and the Palm user community will be looking to Palm to produce the next big thing and prove that the company that brought us the Palm Pilot and Treo can still be a leader in the mobile computing space.

What do you think Palm will be showing the world on January 8th? Let us know by clicking the Comments link below.
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